PHOTO: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, celebrates on the stand as Patriots owner Robert Kraft, right, makes his way across the stand after the Patriots beat the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI at the Louisiana Superdome Sunday, Feb. 3, 2002 in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
New England Patriots (6-1) at St. Louis Rams (4-3)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
TV: CBS, Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Bonnie Bernstein
Local Radio: STL: KLOU-FM (103.3) & KTRS-AM (550) Steve Savard, Jack Snow, and Malcolm Briggs (sideline reporter): Foxboro: WBCN 104.1 FM Gil Santos, Gino Cappelletti.
National Radio: CBS Radio/Westwood One Harry Kalas and Jack Ham
SERIES: Overall Record (including postseason) Patriots 4 - Rams 5
Patriots: offense 14th (19th rush, 14th pass); defense 19th (25th rush, 15th pass).
Rams: offense 6th (17th rush, 5th pass); defense 28th (27th rush, 23rd pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: Without injured shutdown CB Ty Law, Patriots coach Bill Belichick will have a hard time employing the strategy that befuddled the Rams offense in Super Bowl XXXVI. New England will try to disrupt St. Louis' receivers within the five-yard cushion, and the Rams need to make a more concerted effort to run the ball to keep QB Marc Bulger from having to attack the various looks the Patriots will throw at him. New England hopes to get RB Corey Dillon back this week and control the game against a Rams defense allowing 4.6 yards per carry. The Patriots' wideouts are battling a slew of injuries, and QB Tom Brady needs to get TE Daniel Graham back into the passing attack after two quiet weeks. However, Graham might be required to stay back and block more with OT Brandon Gorin expected to play in place of ailing RT Tom Ashworth.
FAST FACTS: Patriots: Brady is on pace to throw a career-high 16 interceptions. ... Have scored first in 15 consecutive games. Rams: RB Marshall Faulk is averaging 19.9 touches per game, compared to 7.7 for backup Steven Jackson. ... Lead series 5-4. ... Are 4-0 under coach Mike Martz in games following a bye week.
PREDICTION: Rams 30-24
- --RB Corey Dillon is in pads this week and while he is being held out of
portions of practice, he is working with the team and is expected to play
Sunday. Dillon sat out the Steelers game, and the Patriots rushed for 5 yards
in his absence. Through the first six games, Dillon rushed for 637 yards or
106 per game.
- --RB Kevin Faulk continues to handle the punt return duties for the Patriots,
but he isn't exactly lighting it up. Faulk has returned nine punts for 46
yards for 5.1 yards per return with a long of 9 yards. Troy Brown has added
four returns for 27 yards or 6.8 per return while Tyrone Poole has two returns
for 6 yards and Deion Branch 1 for zero yards. Overall, the team is averaging
4.9 yards per punt return, which would be the worst by a Patriots team since
the 1990 team averaged 4.6 yards per punt return on 29 returns. Brown has
been the regular returner for the six previous seasons and averaged more than
10 yards per return in five of those seasons.
- --QB Tom Brady is preparing for communication problems that may limit his
ability to audible inside a loud Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, but the team
is working with loud music inside its indoor practice facility adjacent to
Gillette Stadium to simulate the conditions. But Brady says the emphasis for
this week's road game is taking care of the football and not letting the crowd
or the Rams feed off turnovers. "We just can't have interceptions and
fumbles against this team. They feed off of that and if you give these guys
a short field, you can bet they are going to be putting it in (the end zone).
The level of concentration has to go up and we have to stop making stupid
- --P Josh Miller continues to be a bright spot for the Patriots special
teams. He is averaging 45.3 yards on 23 punts through seven games, which is
nearly 3 yards better than his career 42.5-yard average and 8.2 yards better
than the 37.1-yard average the Patriots managed last season when Ken Walter
and Brooks Barnard handled the chores. His long punt of 61 yards is still
14 yards shy of his career best 75-yard boot in a game at Jacksonville in
- --WR David Givens is battling a knee injury that, if it keeps him out, could derail an impressive season. Givens is the Patriots leading receiver with 32 receptions for 544 yards. All but one of his 32 catches have resulted in a Patriots first down and his three individual 100-yard receiver performances so far this season leave him one shy of the Patriots team total for all of last season. Givens had a career best eight receptions last week in Pittsburgh and he is on pace to catch a career best 73 passes for a career high 1,243 yards, which would be the most yards by a Patriots receiver since Stanley Morgan totaled 1,491 receiving yards in 1986.
- --TE Cam Cleeland, not expected to practice until Friday to rest an ankle
sprained on Monday, worked in practice Thursday, and should be available for
Sunday's game against New England.
- --RB Arlen Harris is back from a hamstring injury and is expected to return
kickoffs against the Patriots.
- --CB Dwight Anderson struggled returning kickoffs against Miami Oct. 24
with Arlen Harris out because of a hamstring injury, but could get another
- --MLB Robert Thomas is getting no reps with the first unit after losing
his starting job to Trev Faulk. Thomas might be used on special teams this
- --QB Marc Bulger has shown no ill effects from a bruised shoulder suffered against Miami Oct. 24.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
It's status quo in New England. The Patriots are preparing for St. Louis just as they have for the 21 opponents they beat consecutively before finally losing to Pittsburgh last week. Injuries to key players don't affect the preparation, and losing doesn't change the way the Patriots go about their work this week.
"You try to look at the film and understand why the mistakes were made and you try to correct them," quarterback Tom Brady said. "That's what we do every week win or lose. There are just more lowlights when you lose. "You obviously look at the game film more critically and everyone realizes what they could have done better. So we'll go out and practice hard this week. We are playing an excellent team. You'd like to think it gets easier, but it only gets harder. We learned a lot of things and now we are going to try to get back on the winning track. It was the first time we lost in a while. "Usually after wins, you come in and coach tells you all the wrong things you did and you feel bad about winning, but now we actually feel bad about losing."
It's amazing how quickly questions about record winning streaks turn to injuries and mistakes after one loss. The normally upbeat Rodney Harrison, who passed on his customary game of dominoes to address the media for an extended period, was short with his answers, seeming almost irritated by how a single loss can change the perspective.
"We lost one game," he said when asked about the team's ability to play well even without injured starters such as Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law. "I'm very confident. Injuries happen. I'm sure the Rams have injuries. Every team has them. You have to deal with it. We hate that we lost Ty Law, but what can you do? He can't play with us this week. We're confident in the guys we have."
It was tough playing for the first time in two months when Rams cornerback Travis Fisher started against the Dolphins on Oct. 24. He had suffered a broken forearm in an Aug. 23 preseason game, and the team's defense missed not only his ability to cover but the hitting and tackling that were so much a part of his game. That first game was a rocky outing, as Fisher started and played most of the game. For that, coach Mike Martz was a bit repentant.
"I was remiss in not spelling him in that game in Miami," Martz said. "That's a coaching error on my part." Said Fisher, "I felt like I could go out there and make some plays. I made a couple and I missed a couple. Those are gone and I'm working hard in practice on the things I messed up on."
The bye week helped him recover from the first game back, especially when he
was worried he had re-injured his arm. "It was aching real bad," Fisher
said. "You can't help but notice it when it's hurting." But there
was no further damage, and he's now anxious for this week's game against New
"I bring a lot to the game," Fisher said. "I go out and try to make something happen and I just love playing the game."
Concluded Martz, "He had conditioned really well (before the Miami game), but still it's different than playing the game. He's there now, I believe."
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